THE 2020 WATERLOO ANNIVERSARY BATTLEFIELD TOUR
Napoleon, Wellington, Blücher & NeyBritish, Allied, French & Prussian perspectives
ALL-INCLUSIVE SMALL GROUP TOUR
“It has been a damned nice thing - the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life ... By God! I don't think it would have done if I had not been there.”
The greatest military leaders of the Napoleonic era joined in an epic and final struggle. Poor calculation, miscommunication, great fortune, heroic deeds and tragic failures, outlandish fashion and biblical weather. The sites of the Waterloo Campaign frame history in such a concentrated way that few battlefields have ever, before or since, meant so much to so many, and impacted future events quite so significantly.
Yet around this most famous of battles so many myths have arisen over the years, myths that have been repeated over two centuries without full and proper enquiry, and that bear little relation to reality.
Join two highly renowned Waterloo experts who will transform your understanding of the battlefield, the characters who fought there and the mostly faulty accepted version of events peddled amongst best-sellers to this day.
Our tour is carefully crafted to ensure you a warm welcome, visiting both well known and forgotten points of the battlefields, all the major attractions and the hidden places. We'll unlock the secrets of what really happened, entertaining you with the first-hand accounts of those who were there.
Each day includes scene-setting strategic handouts, maps and images within your special leather campaign journals. At each key battlefield position we'll recap the strategic situation, the knowledge and intent of the leaders, the elapse of time, the weather conditions and the impact of terrain.
We'll examine the tactical decisions, the character and experiences of the men (and a few women) who were there; some well known, some forgotten, others yet to be published, from senior officers to lowly rankers across all nations.
We'll look at how history has told the stories, how they have become embellished, distorted, misunderstood and abused. We'll tell how accepted history has been overturned by fresh examination and re-interpretation, with a wider understanding of the role of all nations in this epic struggle.
We'll guide you around the best bits of the museums and memorials, looking at the evolution of the battlefields whilst referencing other eras of history for a full understanding of these beautiful locations in the 'cockpit of Europe'. We'll ensure that any particular regimental or ancestor interests of yours are covered in depth to add real meaning to your experiences.
Whilst on tour we'll enjoy hearty breakfasts, light lunches and great dinners with wine (or Belgian beer) to ensure your pleasure and comfort, plus time to relax.
Nothing beats standing on a battlefield on the date of the battle, and we are confident that this is the most comprehensive, knowledgeable, wide-ranging and thought-provoking Waterloo Battlefield & Campaign tour you can join.
For 2020 we add extra days to cover the re-enactment, Blücher and Grouchy’s fortress of Namur, and the parks, museums and architecture of Wellington’s Brussels. There’s also an extra full day walking the battlefield of Waterloo itself.
Your tour is led by Robert Pocock, joined by friend and contributing expert Andrew Field. Robert’s extensive on-the-ground and archival research, from walking, exploring, unearthing old documentary records from landowners of the time has exposed new tracks, tales and vistas either forgotten or never known by the history books.
Andrew’s four books on the “Waterloo: The French Perspective”, “Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras”, “Grouchy’s Waterloo: Ligny & Wavre” and “Waterloo: Rout & Retreat have rightly been proclaimed as delivering a very different take on Waterloo to the English-language reader, whose access to French accounts was previously restricted, ignored or misunderstood. With more books out in 2020, this is a tremendous opportunity to enjoy time with the author.
Day by Day Summary
Sunday 14th June PM: Meet & Greet, Battlefield & Fun
We gather at our Waterloo hotel 2.00pm with a welcome and tour introduction before heading straight to the battlefield. We climb the Lion Mound to view the landscape, army dispositions, introduce the ebb and flow of battle and the evolution of the preserved battlefield over the last 205 years.
At the exceptional 110m metre Panorama we explain this huge painting, the tactics, formations, arms and uniforms, before exploring the French Revolutionary & Napoleonic era at the Memorial museum. We dine at our hotel restaurant, La Sucrerie.
Monday 15th June: Plans, Invasion & Events!
We travel just over the French border to Beaumont, where Napoleon awoke on 15th June 1815 to launch his attack on Blücher and Wellington. We visit the key locations where his campaign began to unravel before it had started, discussing the issues faced by Gerard, Grouchy, Lobau, Mortier, Ney and Vandamme. We also examine Napoleon’s much-lauded, inspirational, yet wholly deficient communications.
We then join Reille’s Corps, starting at his overnight Chateau, taking in the beautiful crossing points of the French left wing at Lobbes and Thuin over the River Sambre, before heading to the right wing and the crossing made at Chatelet by Gerard as he headed with his corps towards Ligny the following day.
We end the afternoon at Namur, Blücher’s pre-invasion HQ, inspecting the mighty citadel looking down on the junction of the rivers Sambre and the mightier Meuse, followed by a walk around town, subsequently defended by some of Grouchy’s troops, and a restaurant dinner, before returning to our hotel.
Tuesday 16th June: Anniversary of the Battle of Quatre Bras & Wellington’s subsequent retreat through Genappe to Waterloo
A Wellington and Ney anniversary day. We criss-cross the Quatre Bras battlefield, examining events from the Dutch/Belgian, British, German and French perspectives - the terrain, the farmhouses and the memorials. We discuss the achievements and unresolved issues of the day, the reactions of the Allied and Prussian commanders to their rapidly evolving situations as troops were fed into the fray as they arrived.
We contrast the liaison between Wellington, Blucher and their staff, and that of Marshal Ney with his generals and with Napoleon. We track the various routes used by Napoleon’s left wing and the critical Roman Road, showing how General D’Erlon so very nearly altered the course of history, yet ended the day achieving nothing.
We visit villages along the route of Wellington’s subsequent retreat through medieval Loupoigne and then Genappe. The cavalry actions here are much misunderstood, so we explain our very latest unpublished research which presents a rather different interpretation of the British and French cavalry and artillery actions.
Back at Waterloo we visit Wellington’s HQ Museum & Royal Chapel at Waterloo. We return to our hotel before dining out.
Wednesday 17th June: The Battle of Ligny, Prussian Retreat & Recovery
We journey to the battlefield of Ligny, where we visit Brye (Blücher’s HQ), St Amand, Fleurus (Napoleon’s HQ), the Tombe de Ligny, Sombreffe, Blücher’s base before battle, the Tongrinne flank, Ligny’s Ferme d’en Haut and the Gérard museum. The basis of the Prussian plan before the battle, and the evolving actions of Napoleon are not widely appreciated, so we discuss the strategic and tactical situations as the day unfolded, all brought to life by our many battlefield viewpoints.
We then follow the Prussian retreats through Tilly, and through Gembloux. We visit the location of the famous strawberry incident as Grouchy’s pursuit faltered, before moving on to the battle for the Dyle crossing at Bierges mill, just as the battle for the bridge at Wavre was raging. Then the Prussian advance to Waterloo, walking parts of the Vieux Chemin, Chapelle St Robert, Ferme de la Kelle, Schwerin monument, Bois de Paris, Prussian Monument and on to Plancenoit. We dine out.
Thursday 18th June: Walking Waterloo Battlefield Anniversary
Napoleon’s fateful day arrives. We start at Belle Alliance, walking the French gun line to Papelotte, Smohain and up to Ziethen's crossroads. We follow the course of D’Erlon's forceful attack, the British Heavy Cavalry charges, General Picton’s demise, Lambert’s Inniskillings, events at the crossroads and La Haye Sainte.
From Mercer’s ridge we approach Hougoumont from the French and Allied perspectives, discussing the close-run fighting there and the latest archaeological finds, as the battle extended from morning to afternoon to dusk.
Back on the ridge for the massed French cavalry charges, the squares, the actions of Adam’s brigade and the ultimate repulse of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.
Friday 19th June: Walking Waterloo Day 2
By popular request we’ve added an extra day’s walking. This allows us to cover even more aspects of the battle, and treat you to parts of the battlefield that are, even today, virtually untouched by visitors. These vistas reveal much more about the reasoning of the commanders as they made their plans and decisions on the day, dramatically enhancing your appreciation and understanding of the great battle.
We drive the initial French positions, then walk their advance towards the allied ridge, to see what could really be seen and done by the French, as opposed to what the history books often erroneously claim.
We also walk ‘hidden’ aspects of the battlefield, covering the relevance of positions behind the Allied and French armies, centre and each flank, before visiting Mont St Jean farmhouse, the former Allied casualty clearing station, for a brewery visit and tasting, and to view the new Medical Museum. We dine out.
Saturday 20th June & Sunday 21st June: Brussels & Re-enactment
As we await detailed plans for the weekend re-enactment events, on both Saturday and Sunday, we will keep an open approach to detailed plans for these two days. We will include at least one major visit to Brussels. The very centre of Brussels bore witness to gatherings of Wellington’s troops before the campaign kicked-off. We’ll visit the park, scene to much parading and romance, see the properties where key officers were based, stroll the streets they walked, the magnificent Grand Place, Cathedral, shopping malls and eateries. There will be a chance to visit various museums, and we’ll enjoy a tour of the exceptional military museum.
We’ll also ensure that we visit the re-enactors’ camps and get great views of at least one of the re-enactments. This is expected to be the largest re-enactment since the 2015 200th Anniversary event, albeit on a much smaller scale.
We also play our very own “Where’s Grouchy?” game, using orders, reports and old maps, so that you can place yourself in either Grouchy or Napoleon’s shoes, experiencing the unreliability and time-delay of communications in the days of horse and cart. It’s proved to be a great and fun way of demonstrating how we should respect the achievements of such huge armies little more than two centuries ago.
Monday 22nd June: Farewell & Ramillies
A last chance for any Q&A, as we happily tackle any final thoughts you have. For those now wishing to head home, we’ll drop you at Brussels Eurostar.
As an option for those who wish to stay an extra night, we’ll treat you to a visit to nearby Ramillies battlefield, site of one of Marlborough’s many exceptional victories against the French, in 1706.It’s our pleasure!
Martin's Grand, Waterloo
The 4 Star Martin's Grand is merely a cannon shot, hop, skip and jump from the battlefield of Waterloo. Built in 1836 by the Raffinerie Nationale de Sucre Indigène et Exotique (National Refinery for Indigenous and Exotic Sugar) to cultivate sugar beet and to make sugar, it still displays the beautiful brick vaulting in its restaurant La Sucrerie.
The best location to start and end each day's journey, with spacious and comfortable rooms.